Severe temperatures are hitting most of the country this week, but cold weather is no excuse to sit inside over the long winter months. If you do go outside for some fresh air and exercise, make sure to guard yourself from frostbite. When body tissues are frostbitten, skin cells become damaged—sometimes permanently. Therefore, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) has some suggestions to help keep your skin safe from the cold.
“It takes only minutes for exposed skin to become frostbitten if the temperature falls below 20 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind is blowing at 20 miles per hour or more,” says Taizoon Baxamusa, MD, spokesperson for the AAOS. “Your hands, fingers, feet, toes, and ears are especially susceptible, so you need to take special care protecting them.”
Frostbitten areas may feel numb or hard and frozen, and may appear waxy, white, or grayish. Symptoms such as cold sensitivity, numbness, or chronic pain may last for years after an incident of frostbite; in extreme cases, the frostbitten tissue may be permanently damaged and need to be amputated.
The AAOS offers the following tips to help prevent frostbite:
Take special care to protect your head, hands and feet. Substantial heat loss occurs through the scalp, so head coverings are vital.
Check yourself every half-hour or so for signs of frostbite. If your toes, fingers, ears or other body parts feel numb, get inside.
If you do get frostbite, you should seek medical attention. Should you be unable to see a physician immediately, follow these tips to prevent further injury:
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